If this doesn’t teach Charlotte Hornets forward, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to respect his elders, I don’t know what will….. Just Nasty!
If this doesn’t teach Charlotte Hornets forward, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to respect his elders, I don’t know what will….. Just Nasty!
With ‘deflategate’ finally quieting down to a simmer, and talk about Marshawn Lynch talking loud but saying nothing to the media in the back of our minds, we can finally focus on football. We can finally focus on the game, and more importantly who wins Super Bowl XLIX…
This game reminds me a lot of last year’s Super Bowl. The Seahawks come into the game after a fantastic ending to the NFC Championship Game. Again, that vaunted Seattle D is pitted against a legend at quarterback. Last year, it was Peyton Manning. This year, it’s Tom Brady. The talk of town last year in New York City was how the Seahawks D (The Legion of Boom) would be exposed by Peyton. Well, we all know how that turned out. The problem for Brady and the Pats is they face some of the same challenges the Broncos faced last year.
For one, Brady is not very mobile. His wheels are better than Manning’s, but he can still be a statue at times. The Patriots also don’t have serious big play threats at receiver. That’s something Denver had and were still mercilessly unsuccessful. I do trust the Pats running game a bit more than the Broncos. If there is weakness in the Seahawks D, it’s between the tackles against the run. Lagarette Blount has to have a big game. He’s shown that he’s capable.
For the Seahawks, it comes down to the zone-read. When, Russell Wilson has success throwing the ball down field , it’s usually set up with the zone-read and Marshawn Lynch. Of course, the Pats have to step up and stop that play. I think the Patriots will have their moments, but will that be enough?
This game is set up to be one of the most memorable Super Bowls in recent history. Tough, Big play defense against in my eye, the second best QB ever. Or, least since I’ve around. It should be a very entertaining game. But, there is just something about this Seattle team. We saw it last year, and it has continued to now. The Big game wits of Belichick and Brady will give the Pats a chance to win. But, in the end Beastmode is gonna make a play. You know he is just wait on it. Seahawks 27 Patriots 17.
Enjoy the game everyone!
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Well what do you know. Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They face Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys, winners of the NFC East come in one of the hottest teams, and one of the more versatile teams in the league. The Lions made it to this point, mostly with their defense. Can Stafford get the Lions in gear offensively to pull off the upset in Big D? We have another edition of 5 Questions 5 Answers…….
Q1: Who has the bigger day? Megatron or Dez?
A: Dez. While, Calvin Johnson is still capable of putting up some pretty big numbers, but his numbers have gone down as he’s gotten older and endured more injuries. However, in last year’s meeting, Megatron burned the Cowboys defense to a tune of 329 yards. Another big day by Megatron would be huge. Is Stafford ready to deliver? Dez, in my eye, is the best receiver in the league right now. The rapport between he and Romo has been incredible this season. Look for Dez to have a big day. Despite going up against a stout defense.
Q2: How much of a factor will Ndamukong Suh be now that he is eligible to play?
A: Huge. Suh’s presence is vital to having any shot at slowing down Demarco Murray and the Cowboys running attack. He can also get pressure on Romo. The Lions definitely have a much better chance to win the game with Suh, than without.
Q3: How strong of a candidate should Tony Romo be for MVP?
A: Strong. But, not as strong as the guy he hands the ball off to. Demarco Murray, should be in line with the Packers Aaron Rodgers, and the Texans J.J. Watt. Murray’s breakout season is the main reason for the Cowboys success this season. As good as, Romo has been throwing the football to Bryant, Jason Witten, and company, the offensive line and the holes they’ve opened up for Murray are the biggest reason for the surge of the Cowboys.
Q4: Who needs to be the Lions X-Factor for them to win?
A: Joique Bell would be a candidate. Even though, he leads the Lions in rushing and is a focal point of the offense, he’s an option behind Johnson, and leading receiver Golden Tate. Bell, impacts the game running the ball and receiving out of the backfield. A big game by him will loosen up the Cowboys D and create opportunities for Stafford to throw the ball down field. Another candidate is Eric Ebron from his tight end position.
Q5: Who’s done the better coaching job? Jim Caldwell or Jason Garrett?
A: Both coaches have done a great job this season. But, Garrett gets the edge. First of all, the Cowboys played a tougher schedule overall than the Lions. That schedule was highlighted by the win at Seattle. The Cowboys also dismantled another playoff team in the Indianapolis Colts just a few weeks ago. That’s not to take anything away from the job Caldwell has done. We knew the Lions were good defensively. But, we didn’t know if the offense could hold up enough for them to contend. Speaking of contention, no one thought of the Lions as a contender before the season started. But, there they were, the last week of the season with an opportunity to win the division against the Packers. Really good coaching jobs by both….
The NFL Playoffs continue with two more Wildcard games. The early game features Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals vs Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Neither game from Saturday’s action gave us a fantastic finish, or any nail-biting moments. Hopefully, we’ll get that today. Starting with this matchup. But, that will be a tough task for Cincy without A. J. Green. Let’s take a look at this matchup in another edition of 5 Questions 5 Answers.
Q1: Who steps up for the Bengals at wide receiver in the absence of A.J. Green, and can they be successful without him?
A: Mohamed Sanu, had his moments when Green was injured early in the season. But, due to some injuries of his own, his contributions have fallen off as of late. Still, he’s probably the only threat that Dalton has to rely on. Especially, with Jermaine Gresham listed as questionable if he’ll play or not. It’s going to be a tall order for the Bengals offense to get any traction. Thankfully, they do have a nice running game to lean on.
Q2: What do the Bengals have to do to get their first win since this current ‘Geico’ guy did his ‘shuffling’ on the sidelines in 1991?
A: First of all, Jeremy Hill, and Giovani Bernard have to have big days. Hill, has been huge for the Bengals in his rookie season. The former LSU Tiger, has gained over 1,100 yards in only 8 starts. The good thing about the Hill and Bernard combo, is that they complement each other well. Hill is between the tackles guy that has a burst once he gets in the open field. Bernard, is smaller and great catching the ball out of the backfield. The Bengals must also find ways to get pressure on Andrew Luck. The Colts offense has not been as potent lately, mostly due to the lack of a running game. The Bengals have to take advantage and make the Colts even more of a one-dimensional team. It’s still a tall order for Cincy to pull out their first playoff win since Andy Dalton was 3 years old. Ouch!
Q3: Is Andrew Luck ready to shoulder the load and lead the Colts to a long playoff run?
A: Luck looks ready for the challenge. He just doesn’t have enough help. The Colts were looked as one of the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl before the season started. But, that took a big hit when Robert Mathis went down to injury before the season. The defense has actually been better than I thought it would be. But, they’re probably not good enough to get the job done against Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or even Joe Flacco. The running game is also a problem. Andrew Luck, is one of the top 4 QB’s in the league, and more than capable. The rest of the Colts, as a whole, aren’t.
Q4: Who has the most pressure on them to win? Andy Dalton or Marvin Lewis?
A: Both. Ultimately, Lewis has more pressure since he’s the coach. But, while Lewis is 0-5 in playoff games, Dalton is 0-3. To make matters worse for Dalton, he’s been terrible in those losses. Simply put, both of these guys need a win in the worst way, or they both could be packing their bags and finding a new team next season.
Q5: How much of an impact will the regular season meeting between these two teams, a 27-0 Colts beatdown over the Bengals, have on this game?
A: Little to none. At least in the minds of a couple of Colts defenders, that is. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said; “Whatever happened in that game, you have to completely wipe it out. They’re a completely different ballclub right now.” Defensive lineman Cory Redding echoed those comments. “That’s how many weeks ago? I don’t pay attention or look at that stuff. What we did in the past is in the past.” Words of wisdom from both. But, neither of them knew at the time that A.J. Green would be inactive. Just as he was in the first meeting. Green’s absence had a big impact on the first meeting. Hopefully, that won’t be so for this Wildcard matchup. Us fans like close exciting games. Especially, in the playoffs!
The NFL Playoffs are here, and what better way to kickoff the AFC Wildcard Weekend than with one of the biggest rivalries in sports. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers won the AFC North, but the two teams split their two regular season meetings. So, what happens tonight? We’ll look at this huge matchup in another Wildcard Weekend 5 Questions 5 Answers period.
Q1. Is this Ravens D good enough to remind of us dominating Raven defenses of the past?
A: Potentially. The Ravens have been much better in recent weeks. The pieces are seemingly in place, but for the better part of the season the results hadn’t been. The Ravens are 8th in total yards per game (337) and 4th in rush defense. Respectable numbers. But, Baltimore ranks 23rd in pass defense, and 17th in 3rd down defensive efficiency. Those aren’t numbers we’re used to seeing. Terrell Suggs, is the unquestioned leader on defense. He has to step up and play the way he’s capable. Rookie C.J. Mosley has had a really good season. Getting pressure from Suggs, Mosley and company on Ben Roethlisberger will be vital.
Q2: Can Antonio Brown be enough, by himself to make up for the loss of Le’veon Bell?
A: No. But, with the emergence of Martavius Bryant and Markus Wheaton, the Steelers have three huge weapons that can make big plays down field. With the Ravens being so shaky on pass defense, it’s conceivable that the Steelers could line up and throw themselves to a win. But, we all know that isn’t necessarily Steeler football. Weather conditions could play a factor in that, as well.
Q3: Do the Steelers have enough in the run game with a combination of Josh Harris and Ben Tate to keep the Ravens defense honest?
A: In most situations, probably not. Especially, against the Ravens. But, these are the Steelers and these are the playoffs. We’ve seen huge performances in the past by unsung Steelers, in big time situations. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Harris, Tate, or both have nice games. We’ve seen Tate have good performances in his time in the league. He could turn out to be a good pick up by the Black & Yellow.
Q4. Who has the better performance? Flacco? Big Ben?
A: My guess would be Big Ben. But, Flacco has quietly had a nice season. So, has the Ravens offense as a whole. 2014, daw Baltimore set highs in yards (365 per game), and points (25.6). Flacco’s nearly 4,000 yards was a big part of that. Steve Smith and Torrey Smith can provide big plays in their own right. Of course, Big Ben threw for nearly 1,000 yards more than Flacco, and the Steelers offense was even more prolific (411 yards and 27 points per game) than the Ravens. The stats suggest a shootout tonight. Hard to believe with the history of these two teams.
Q5: Can Justin Forsett continue his breakout season?
A: Absolutely. Forsett has been a serviceable back for several years. Mostly on third down. But, now after the Ray Rice incident, he has his chance. He’s delivered (1,296 yards rushing) and been a huge component of the Ravens offense.
The NFL Playoffs are here! All the luxuries of the regular season, like there being a next week, or a next game are over. It’s put up or shut up time. While, the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks wait for their turn next week. The Panthers, Cardinals, Cowboys, and Lions have a little work to do. This 5 Question 5 Answer period will preview each game and point out what each team needs to do to survive and advance. First up:
CARDINALS at PANTHERS
Q 1: Can Ryan Lindley be effective enough for the Cards to win the game, and if so how can he do it?
A: Yes. Problem is, most of the ingredients needed to make that a reality, the Cardinals probably don’t have. The injury situation for Arizona has them at a serious disadvantage. Even against a team like Carolina that comes in with a sub .500 record. Besides, the injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, the player Bruce Arians misses most on offense is Andre Ellington. The do-it-all running back would be a nice safety blanket for Lindley with his running and receiving abilities. Larry Fitzgerald, is capable of being a safety blanket from his receiver position. But, he’s been up and down all season. The Cardinals are clearly going to have rely on their defense, and hope that rookie John Brown, or Michael Floyd can somehow make a couple of big plays in the passing game. Other than that, it’s set up to be a long day for the Cardinals offense.
Q2: How big is the return of DeAngelo Williams for the Panthers offense?
A: Very. Jonathan Stewart has run the ball well enough in Williams absence. But, Williams is unquestionably the main man in the back field. The Cardinals D will have it’s moments and cause problems for Cam Newton. It will be vitally important that Williams and Stewart have a good day. The Panthers have put up some points in recent weeks, but this is the playoffs. The team that runs the ball better today will win this game.
Q3: Is Cam Newton finally coming of age?
A: Slowly but surely. I am one that still believes Newton can be an elite NFL QB. Considering the weapons he has at his disposal, he’s done quite well. Losing Steve Smith was huge, and the Panthers really haven’t replaced him yet. Kelvin Benjamin, is making strides as a rookie, however. Benjamin, gives Cam a tall, athletic guy that he can throw the ball up to in tight situations. Tight end Greg Olsen, is still the go-to-guy. He’ll need to provide big plays of his own for the Panthers to be successful.
Q4: Player(s) that needs to make most impact for each team?
A: Arizona – Patrick Peterson, Alex Okafor. The Cardinals shutdown corner needs to have a big day. A big day would be a pick or two, and maybe a pick six or a huge play that gives the Cards a short field. Okafor, who leads Arizona with 8 sacks needs to provide the pressure on Newton that could cause a mistake. Field position will be huge in this game where the weather conditions won’t be good. Any help from the Cards D would be huge for Lindley and the their chances to win the game.
Carolina – Cam Newton. I know we’ve mentioned his name already. But, he is the face of this team. In the win last week at Atlanta, Newton only threw for 114 yards. However, he was mistake free. If that’s the case today, it’s hard to imagine Lindley and the Cardinals being successful. Cam doesn’t have to be a star. He just has to be solid.
Q5: Should Logan Thomas be the starter instead of Lindley?
A: Debatable. Thomas had his moments in preseason, but played very little in the absence of Palmer and Stanton. Lindley, hasn’t looked very good in games against Seattle and San Fran. So, I think Thomas should have been given a long look. If nothing else, he could add the element of being able to make plays with his feet to the table. But, it’s hard for me to question anything Arians does right now. He’s made all the right calls to get Arizona to this point. Let’s see if he can pull another stunner today to get the Cards to the divisional round.
Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are no strangers to each other. Who will ever forget the epic 2008 SEC Title Game between Saban’s underdog, but top-ranked Crimson Tide and Meyer’s second-ranked Gators? The score ended up 31-20. But, the sheer amount of talent on the field led by Florida’s Tim Tebow, who won the Heisman Trophy the previous year, and Bama’s Julio Jones was incredible. The game was also closer than the score indicated. The Tide held a 20-17 lead going into the 4th quarter, before Tebow played maybe the best quarter of his college career, throwing two TD passes. One of those to Aaron Hernandez, who since then has made a name for himself in all the wrong ways. The Gators went on to defeat Oklahoma to win the BCS Championship.
The following year, the roles were reversed. Both were undefeated. Florida ranked one, Bama ranked two. The Tide led by Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, took the Gators to the ole woodshed 32-13. The revenge for Bama was sweet, as they went on to defeat Texas for the BCS Championship. The Bama/Florida rivalry seemed to be on for years to come. That is, until Meyer called it quits for about 24 hours due to health reasons, immediately after the loss to Bama. Meyer, thought it over and decided to come back. It was a mistake. The Gators would finish 8-5 in 2010, including a resounding 31-6 loss at Alabama. Meyer, had lost Tebow to the NFL, but more importantly he seemed to have lost the fire and determination that he had used to build the Gators into the dynasty it had become. It showed the most in recruiting. The Gators are still recovering, today. Meyer, took the post as head coach of the Buckeyes in 2012, and here we are. Saban, has the 2-1 edge in their only 3 meetings. So, what happens tonight in the Big Easy? Does Meyer and the Buckeyes continue their resurgence back into college football’s elite, or does Saban make it 3-1 vs Meyer and keep the Tide alive for its 4th national title in 6 years? Here are my thoughts on this epic battle….
How did they get here?
While, I haven’t seen a team play the way FSU has this season. It’s hard to recall a team losing two different QB’s to injury and still having the opportunity to play for a championship. It’s a testament to just how good a coaching job Meyer has done, and to the overall talent the Buckeyes have. No one, believed Ohio State could make it this far without Braxton Miller. No one, I mean no one, thought the Bucks would ever be in this position after what turned out to be a terrible loss at home to Virginia Tech. No one thought Ohio State could get this far with freshman J.T. Barrett starting at QB. No one, had any thoughts that Barrett could go down against Michigan, and leave it to Cardale Jones to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. 59-0 no less. But, here they are. In my eye, the turning point of the Buckeyes season came in a win at Penn State. Not that the Nittany Lions were that good. It just seemed to be the point where Barrett gained the confidence needed to pull out a tough game on the road. The Buckeyes won that game 31-24 in double overtime.
The Tide’s road to the Sugar Bowl was equally surprising in terms of who would lead them at QB. The hole left by A.J. McCarron was the biggest question mark by far coming into the season. Florida State backup, Jacob Coker saw greener pastures and an all but certain opportunity to start in Tuscaloosa. So, he left the shadows of Jameis Winston and landed at Alabama. Unfortunately, for Coker, he couldn’t begin practice with his new team in the spring. He had to wait until fall drills. That was a blessing disguise. Especially, for Blake Sims. Not to say Coker couldn’t have led the Tide to the success they’ve enjoyed this season. But, it’s doubtful at best. Hardly anyone thought Sims would keep the job for 2 or 3 games. Let alone the entire season. But, Sims improvement from the 2014 Spring Game to August and fall drills was astounding. New offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, worked with Sims on his mechanics and made a huge difference. Sims, always had the athletic ability. But, now he had the mechanics. All he needed from there was the confidence. Kiffin, did an incredible job of calling plays to create a comfort zone to give Sims that confidence. The turning point of Bama’s season was no doubt at Arkansas. The Tide had just lost to Ole Miss a week prior, and trailed the Hogs in the 2nd half before Sims found receiver DeAndrew White for the game winning TD. The Tide has rolled ever since.
When the Buckeyes have the ball:
Despite the loss of Braxton Miller, the offense looked a lot more like what we expect from an Urban Meyer coached team. Even with Miller, the offense sputtered at times the last couple of seasons. That wasn’t the case in 2014. Barrett, proved to be an excellent fit for what Meyer wants to do. Cardale Jones, has some of those same assets to make the Buckeyes offense go, but he doesn’t seem quite as dynamic as Barrett. He’s not quite the runner, or the passer, and of course has even less experience. It was smooth sailing for Jones against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Title Game. Ohio State, dominated the game defensively, however and Jones benefited. The question for Jones tonight is can he make some of the big plays down field that other quarterbacks have made against Alabama? Devin Smith and Corey Smith could have opportunities to get behind the Bama D to make big plays. Can Jones get the ball to them? Bama has been stout against the run all season. But, they have struggled at times against the pass. Notably, the deep pass. The running game will be also be vital. Ezekiel Elliott and his 220 yards rushing in the Big Ten title game had to help Jones’ comfort level. But, make no mistake about it. This game is in Cardale Jones hands. Can he deliver?
When Bama has the ball?
When, Alabama has had the ball this season, it’s usually been all about Amari Cooper. Under Kiffin’s guidance, Sims and Cooper have been unstoppable. Kiffin, has done a great job of moving Cooper around in Bama’s different formations, making it hard for defenses to identify where he is, and making it easier for Sims to find him open. The running game is a big part of that, also and has been Bama’s strong point for years. However, while being good, the running game hasn’t been quite as dominant as years in the past. That might be the case tonight as well, if T.J. Yeldon is unable to make a huge contribution. Yeldon, has been unable to shake a nagging injury that’s hampered him since the LSU game. It sounds like he’ll play for sure, but just how much is a question. The Tide does have depth with Derrick Henry, and Jalston Fowler, however. The key for the Tide tonight is can they’re somewhat battered offensive line pass what looks to be their biggest test of the season. The Buckeyes strength is in their defensive line. They get after the QB well and have had success stopping the run for the most part. Sims’ ability to make plays with his feet may be huge tonight. Just as it’s been all season. Finding other targets in the pass game like White will also be important for Sims.
I think it’s very arguable that this game matches the two coaches that have done the best coaching jobs of anyone in America this season. It’s arguably Meyer’s best coaching job ever. It’s almost not arguable that this has been Saban’s best coaching job since he’s been in Tuscaloosa. If you thought one semifinal matchup in the inaugural College Football Playoff would be Cardale Jones vs Blake Sims raise your hand. Thought not. But, that’s exactly what we have. So, who wins? I think the sheer fact that the Buckeyes are playing with basically their 3rd string QB speaks volumes. Jones, didn’t have to do much in their demolition of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. He’ll have to do more tonight, and I expect Bama to make it hard on him. That doesn’t mean he won’t make some plays, and that Ohio State’s D won’t have success. Especially, up front. In the end, it’s just hard for me to imagine the Buckeyes pulling this out. Too much Sims, too much Cooper, and too much Bama D.
Alabama 30 Ohio State 16
The matchup at the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena today is about as rare as they come. For at least a couple of different reasons. First, it marks the first time these two schools have met on the gridiron. Second, it marks only the third time Heisman Trophy winners have faced each other. Marcus Mariota, of course holds the trophy now and will try to join Matt Leinart, who in 2005 won the Heisman and beat defending Heisman winner Jason White (Oklahoma QB) in the BCS Title Game. On the flip side, Jameis Winston will ironically enough try to join a Florida Gator as a defending Heisman winner and defeat the present winner. In the 2009 BCS Title Game, Tim Tebow and the Gators defeated Sam Bradford and the Oklahoma Sooners in route to his second national title. So, who prevails in this first ever matchup between the Ducks and Seminoles? Who proves to be the better QB? Mariota? Winston? We break it down right here.
How did they get here?
For Florida State, it was a journey in which I’ve never seen. The fact that they’re still undefeated is remarkable in its own right. There have been plenty of teams coming off winning a championship in the world of sports that have the talent the ‘Noles have, yet they seemed to sleepwalk through games the next season and still have a shot to defend their title. Never, have any of those teams seemingly sleepwalked through nearly every game. At least the first half, anyway. That’s exactly the type of season FSU had. On one hand, you have to say the Seminoles are very opportunistic, and resilient. On the other hand, saying that they’re lucky, cocky, and just downright strange all would suffice. But, they’re here. That’s all that matters. If you’re looking for a turning point in their season: Take your pick. You could say the come backs at Louisville, Miami, or NC State. You could say the game against Clemson where Winston was suspended. Any of those will do. Nevertheless, the ‘Noles have their shot to repeat as national champs. But, what about Oregon?
Despite some injuries early in the season, especially to their offensive line the Ducks had a lot easier path. Not schedule wise, however. The PAC-12 is overall much tougher than the ACC. Then, there was the huge win over Michigan State early in the season. But, besides that Thursday night in Eugene when they lost to Arizona, the Ducks were quite dominating all season. That game marked the only time the Ducks would score below 38 points (24) all season. The turning point of the Ducks’ season had to be at the Rose Bowl against UCLA. Coming off the loss at home to Arizona, and with the Bruins being the favorite in the eyes of many to win the PAC-12, Oregon went to Pasadena and pretty much ended any thoughts of the Bruins winning the conference title and set themselves up for a remarkable run to end the season. The Ducks were finally healthy and it began to show that day. The final score was 42-30, but that game wasn’t nearly that close. Oregon jumped on UCLA early, and rode that wave all the way back to Pasadena for the College Football Playoff.
When FSU has the ball:
While, Jameis Winston is the face of the ‘Noles, and unquestionably the man who makes this team go, there’s lots of talent elsewhere. The two that are most prominent in my mind are wide receiver Rashad Greene, and tight end Nick O’Leary. Greene, is the deep-threat that can stretch the defense and make big plays. He went for over 100 yards receiving in 6 games for the ‘Noles. O’Leary, the Mackey Award winner, is the guy that does all the dirty work. He’s a great blocker, but he’s also very dangerous in the passing game. The problem for FSU has been their running game. A strong point last season, has turned out to be not so strong this season, as the Seminoles only rushed for 1753 in 13 games this season. Do the math, and you’re talking about 135 yards per game. Not very impressive. The ‘Noles will have to do better than that to win this game.
Oregon, is giving up around 150 yards on the ground. Which isn’t terrible. But, they’re going to be at a disadvantage when trying to defend Winston and the FSU passing game. Senior cornerback, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will not play due to an injury he suffered in practice a few weeks ago. He almost certainly would have drawn the assignment to defend Greene. Losing Olomu will be huge, and could setup a play or two down field for the ‘Noles. Still, the running game needs to be solid. Freshman, Dalvin Cook gained over 900 yards rushing this season to lead the Seminoles. Ball security will also be vital. The Ducks have an impressive +17 turnover ratio.
When Oregon has the ball:
The Ducks are impressive throwing and running the ball. Of course, Mariota is the orchestrator of the offense. He’s also very productive in the running game. But, he also has plenty of weapons. Royce Freeman, has been the go-to-guy out of the back field. Freeman, led the Ducks with nearly 1,300 yards rushing. Unlike Florida State, the Ducks have been quite well-rounded on offense, to a tune of 237 yards per game rushing and 308 through the air. The Ducks high-octane, fast tempo offense has been unstoppable since the Arizona game. The Seminoles will have to come up with one of their better performances defensively. They’re defense has been shaky at times. Especially, in the first half of games. There can’t be a slow start today, if the ‘Noles want to have any shot at winning this game. They also have to find ways to get pressure on Mariota. FSU, has not been good at getting pressure on the QB all season.
When you examine this game, there are few if any advantages that favor Florida State. We know they’re extremely talented, but they haven’t shown it consistently. They have to travel cross-country to play the game in the PAC-12’s backyard. It’s not a road game, but the disparity between Oregon fans and FSU fans in attendance might make it feel like a road game. Of course, the ‘Noles did play against Auburn less than a year ago, so there is some familiarity with the stadium. But, the Ducks just played there a couple of months ago and came away with a huge win. However, in terms of which team may feel the most pressure, I’d have to say the Ducks will feel it more. Oregon, has been in similar situations, and come up short on a lot of those occasions. They and their coach, Mark Helfrich still have something to prove. While, FSU delivered in their opportunity to win it all just a season ago. Almost every stat points to an Oregon victory. But, this game may be the first time where some of the pressure is finally lifted from Winston and the ‘Noles. Also, the loss of Olomu could be huge in terms of stopping Winston. While, it may sound crazy, somehow, someway I think the ‘Noles pull it out and advance to the National Title game in Dallas..
FSU 37 Oregon 33
Just a few years ago, Big 12 officials thought they had it all planned out. As rumor after rumor of cornerstones Oklahoma and Texas leaving for what would possibly be the PAC-16, or an SEC with as many as 16 teams came to the surface, the conference was already losing schools like Colorado to the PAC-12. Then, the bottom really seemed to fall out when Missouri and Texas A&M both left for greener pastures in the SEC. All three of these universities left the Big 12 for the same reasons. They were all running away from the monopoly that was forming in Austin Texas. The Longhorn ESPN Network and the advantages it gave the University of Texas forced their hand and created an uncertainty of whether the Big 12 would be able to weather the storm of expansion in college football. The conference basically let it happen to keep Texas happy and nearly shut the conference down. It looked like doomsday in the nation’s heartland. But, the two cornerstones of the conference decided to stay, and everything seemed to fall into place after that. At least in the eyes of the Big 12’s brain-trust.
The conference did lose Nebraska to the Big Ten. Which was a pretty big hit. But, the conference did manage to gain TCU and West Virginia. The Big 12 wasn’t exactly the Big 12 anymore, because there were only 10 teams left. However, acquiring TCU and West Virginia meant the Big 12 welcomed two programs that were flourishing in football. So, even though the conference was hit hard by the teams that exited. At least the Big 12 was still alive and still a Power-5 Conference.
But, how could the Big 12 be content with staying at 10 teams? It just didn’t seem possible that the league could make it against other conferences that had at least two more schools competing. There were discussions with schools like Louisville, and even Florida State. But, none of those rumors came to fruition. So, it became increasingly obvious that the Big 12 was just going to have to remain a 10-team league.
Big 12 officials quickly implemented a plan where all teams would play each other once per season in football. They also did away with the Championship Game, saying they were fine with 10 teams and didn’t need to expand since the champion would be decided on the field. No other conference could make that claim. To their credit, the Big 12 made a big deal out of this. They even went so far as to allow certain teams to play on the first Saturday in December. That week is normally designated for conference championship games. Not regular season games. This was nothing but a ploy to try and make it seem like those teams were playing an extra (13th) game. Unfortunately for the Big 12, the Playoff Selection Committee can count. They know that even though Baylor, and TCU played last weekend. They were playing only their 12th game. While teams like Ohio State were playing their 13th.
Big 12 fans, and officials want you to believe the selection committee fumbled the ball, so to speak, and were biased in leaving Baylor and TCU out of the 4-team playoff, in favor of Ohio State. In reality, this ball was fumbled by the Big 12 several years ago, and the Ohio State Buckeyes were happy to recover.
How is the Big 12 at fault you ask?
First and foremost, the Big 12 allowed the University of Texas to have too much power. No other school, besides Notre Dame and BYU have the freedom and authority the Longhorns have in major college football. Neither of those schools belong to a conference, at least not in football. That authority is definitely the reason Texas A&M left, and is the main reason schools like Nebraska and Missouri left also. Those departures left a void that the conference has not been able to completely fill.
Secondly, doing away with the championship game was the direct result of that void. Therefore, Baylor and TCU were put at a disadvantage when compared with teams like Ohio State, who played a championship game on Saturday. It wasn’t just that the Buckeyes were so darned impressive against a good Wisconsin team. It’s because it was a championship game. It didn’t have to be 59-0. It simply meant more for the Buckeyes to win their 12th game in 13 tries, than it did for Baylor to beat Kansas State for it’s 11th win in 12 tries. A championship game is also a lot more sexy than a regular season game to a television audience. It was also more sexy to the selection committee.
That’s not to say they didn’t make mistakes. Overall, the committee did a pretty good job. Especially, for this being their first rodeo in this playoff thing. But, I think it’s highly questionable if Ohio State is better than TCU or Baylor. Especially, with their 3rd string QB under center. It also, made no sense at all for the committee to rank TCU 3rd in front of Florida State in their preceding poll. Committee chair, Jeff Long, contends that the difference between 3rd and 6th place was very small at that time. Try going to Ft. Worth and telling that to fans of the Horned Frogs. If the committee had ranked TCU 4th, there probably wouldn’t have been quite as much backlash as we’ve heard over the last couple of days. Actually, I thought Baylor should be ahead of TCU, due to them beating the Frogs head-to-head, anyway.
Regardless, while being very predictable, dropping TCU in the rankings behind Ohio State looked bad. I don’t blame TCU fans, coaches, and players for being upset. They’re just upset at the wrong set of people. Well, maybe not the wrong set of people. They just need to add a few names to that list. Namely, the Big 12 officials that made the critical mistakes several years ago. Amazingly, it seems that they still haven’t learned. Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby said in an interview: that he wished the selection committee would have told him that having a conference championship game was part of the criteria they looked at. Huh?
I rest my case…….
Derrick Rose and Lebron James are back where they belong. That’s a good thing for the cities of Chicago and Cleveland. But it’s probably not a good thing for the rest of the Eastern Conference or the NBA.
Even though, Rose never left Chicago, his injuries have kept him away from the court. Lebron, did leave to successfully pursue an NBA title. But, he’s back now and wants to deliver a title to his home state of Ohio. Both teams have made other big additions besides their superstars. Question is; are those additions enough to hold off teams like Charlotte who made some moves of their own, including changing their nickname back to the Hornets. Washington, who made the playoffs with their young roster last season, or also Miami who still have veterans Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to ball with. Should be one interesting season. Let’s take a look and preview the Eastern Conference for 2014-15 starting with the Preseason All-Conference team….
Preseason Eastern All-Conference Team:
1st Team 2nd Team
C Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls C Al Jefferson – Charlotte Hornets
F Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks F Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers
F Lebron James – Cleveland Cavaliers F DeMar Derozan – Toronto Raptors
G Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls G Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards
G John Wall – Washington Wizards G Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
Rookie of the Year – Jabari Parker F Milwaukee Bucks
Predicted order of Finish:
SOUTHEAST DIVISION – This division could be one that’s not decided until the final day of the season. Three teams (Charlotte, Miami, and Washington) are really evenly matched. I give the Hornets a slight edge over the Heat and Wizards due to their youth and the fact head coach Steve Clifford seemed to get his team to play hard. Night in, night out. The addition of Lance Stephenson doesn’t hurt either. But, also watch out for Atlanta.
1. CHARLOTTE HORNETS – It’s good to see the Charlotte Hornets back, with the uniforms and all. They should also be back in the playoffs, and should make some noise when they get there. The Hornets may not be the most talented team, but they’re inside/outside combination is great. If Stephenson gives them the scoring punch they’ve lacked. Look out. Because, there are few better defensively.
Key Addition: Lance Stephenson Key Loss: Josh McRoberts (Miami Heat)
2. WASHINGTON WIZARDS - Another young team that made the playoffs last season. There’s plenty of talent on this team. However, veteran leadership was a problem. Paul Pierce should help with that. He can also help mentor Otto Porter. It’s very conceivable the Wizards could win the division and make a long run in the playoffs with one of the best back court’s in the game. Re-signing Marcin Gortat was also huge!
Key Addition: Pierce, DeJuan Blair Key Loss: Trevor Ariza (Houston)
3. MIAMI HEAT - The Heat had the biggest loss in free agency. But, they were able to keep everything else in tact. Chris Bosh shunned the Houston Rockets and decided to stay. Dwyane Wade hasn’t gone anywhere, and there’s the addition of Luol Deng. If Bosh can regain some of his game he left in Toronto and be more of a traditional power forward and less of a stretch 4, the Heat could be a dangerous team. Wade’s health will also be a huge factor.
Key Additions: Deng, Josh McRoberts Key Loss: Lebron James
4. ATLANTA HAWKS - The Hawks were very quiet in the offseason. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a solid ball club in Atlanta. Now, they have to build on a surprising run in the playoffs, that nearly had them defeat Indiana. That was without Al Horford. He’s back now from injury, and the rest of the cast pretty much stayed the same. Don’t think they’ll win the division, but a run to the playoffs is expected. Jeff Teague is one of the more unsung point guards in the NBA
Key additions: Thabo Sefolosha, Adreian Payne (Draft) Key Loss: Lou Williams
5. ORLANDO MAGIC - The Magic are definitely the weak link of the division. But, there is talent here. Nikola Vucevic is one of the better, but lesser known big men in the game. Victor Oladipo has plenty of promise. Fans of the team are getting very restless, but clearing house and starting over was the right thing to do. One player to watch out for is rookie Elfrid Payton. He could be one of the steals of this past draft.
Key Addition: Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon (Draft) Key Loss: Aaron Afflalo
Atlantic Division – There was a great deal of disarray for this division last season. The Toronto Raptors had one of their best seasons ever. Other than that, there was little to cheer about for any of the other fan bases. That includes Brooklyn, who made wholesale changes to their roster, but failed to live up to expectations of winning the division and making a run in the playoffs. There should be improvement in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. But, will it be enough for anyone to really notice. Doubtful. At any rate, here is my look at the Atlantic Division for 2014-15.
1. TORONTO RAPTORS - The young Raptors nearly beat the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs. But, fell in seven games. It was still a good season, and now they’re looking to build on that success. Re-signing Kyle Lowry in free agency was a huge win to keep that momentum going. DeMar Derozan is the franchise. He keeps getting better and is clearly one of the most dynamic shooting guards in the NBA.
Key Addition: Lou Williams Key Losses: Steve Novak (Utah), John Salmons (New Orleans)
2. NEW YORK KNICKS - So much has happened in the Big Apple over the last year or so. Phil Jackson, took over upstairs. Derek Fisher has now taken over on the court, and with both of those changes taking effect, the Triangle Offense has been implemented. The roster has been re-tooled mightily. Now, the big question is how will Carmelo Anthony fit into the new system? Watch out for last year’s rookie, Tim Hardaway Jr. and this year’s rookie, Cleanthony Early.
Key Addition: Jose Calderon Key Loss: Tyson Chandler
3. BROOKLYN NETS - Lionel Hollins takes over the coaching duties, after the Jason Kidd debacle landed him in Milwaukee. He should be an instant upgrade on the bench. The injury to Brook Lopez seemed to be a blessing in disguise, as they turned around a terrible start to last season into a playoff berth. Lopez is back, but Deron Williams is the key to this team. He has to be more consistent for the Nets to be a factor. Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett also return, but much was lost.
Key Addition: Jarrett Jack Key Losses: Paul Pierce (Washington), Shaun Livingston (Golden State), Andray Blatche (China)
4. BOSTON CELTICS - Brad Stevens enters his second season at the helm, and things really don’t seem much different from his first season that yielded 25 wins. Rajon Rondo, is back…….For now. Avery Bradley also returns. But, the Celts are very young. Marcus Smart and James Young made for an ok draft night, but the Celtics need players like Jeff Green and newcomer Evan Turner to provide more offense. With their youth and ability to defend, they could be fun to watch.
Key Additions: Marcus Thornton, Tyler Zeller Key Loss: Kris Humphries (Washington)
5. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS - Patience is the key word in Philly. The Sixers say they have a plan. They’re doing a great job disguising it. For some reason, it seems the Sixers think trading rookie of the year, Michael Carter-Williams is a good idea. The one good idea they have however, is stacking up draft picks. Three first round picks last year, and multiple picks next year. Now, it’s time to produce on those. On the court, keeping Thaddeus Young was good, but how long will he stay? We’ll finally get to see Nelens Noel, but what about Joel Embiid? Many questions, few answers.
Key Additions: None Key Loss: None
Central Division – As, the Bucks and Pistons continue to try to rebuild, the landscape has changed dramatically in this division. Sure, the Bulls will be at or near the top with Derrick Rose returning from injury and other improvements to their team. But, the Indiana Pacers have taken major steps back due to injuries and key losses in free agency. Of course, the Cleveland Cavaliers will make the biggest jump with their version of the Big 3. But, will they be enough to deny the Bulls as Rose makes his comeback? Should be an exciting race, even if it’s only 2 teams racing.
1. CHICAGO BULLS - What an off-season it’s been in the Windy City. The Bulls amnestied Carlos Boozer. Derrick Rose is back and looking good. They were able to sign Pau Gasol. They welcomed newcomers Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. Both of whom, could make immediate impacts. Through all of that, they were able to keep Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich, which was huge. About the only thing that went wrong was the Cavs resurgence. If it weren’t for that, the Bulls would have very little competition in the division or the Eastern Conference.
Key Additions: Gasol, McDermott (Draft), Mirotic Key Losses: Carlos Boozer (LA Lakers) DJ Augustin (Detroit)
2. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS - There’s no understating what Lebron James does for this team. But, Kevin Love’s impact should be huge as well. Having a big that stretches the floor, but that can also crash the boards will make Lebron and Kyrie Irving’s job a lot easier. Eventually. It depends on how fast they gel together. The addition of Mike Miller should give depth and experience to a bench that needs it. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cavs win the divsion. For now, I give the Bulls the slight edge.
Key Additions: James, Love, Miller Key Loss: Luol Deng (Miami)
3. DETROIT PISTONS - Stan Van Gundy, takes over in Motown, what has the potential to be a pretty good team down the road. I didn’t like the move to trade Brandon Knight last season in favor of Brandon Jennings. But, acquiring D.J. Augustin looks good coming off the season he had in Chicago. He’s a better lead guard than Jennings. Maybe, finding a way to play them together at times could be beneficial. Re-signing Greg Monroe was huge. Few teams will have the inside punch like the Pistons. But, Josh Smith was not a good decision and the Pistons continue to pay for it.
Key Additions: Augustin, Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler Key Loss: Rodney Stuckey (Indiana)
4. INDIANA PACERS - As good as the off-season was to teams like the Bulls and Cavs. It was just as bad for the Pacers. It all started when Paul George injured himself in an exhibition game with Team USA preparing for the FIBA World Cup of Basketball. That gruesome injury will sit him down for another 8-10 months, at least. Then, to make matters worse, Lance Stephenson departed for Charlotte. David West, is all of a sudden the go-to guy. It’s going to be a long season and an even longer rebuilding process in Indiana.
Key Addition: Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles Key Loss: Lance Stephenson (Charlotte)
5. MILWAUKEE BUCKS - Just when it looks like the Bucks take a step forward. They take three steps backwards. Acquring Jabari Parker was fantastic. The Bucks needed someone with the number two overall pick, that could step in and contribute early. Parker, seems to be that guy. He seems to be a good fit, and the icing on the cake is it seems he wants to be in Milwaukee. Homerun all the way. But, the acquisition of Jason Kidd to coach this team is beyond head-scratching. It’s the kind of move that makes you lose hair. Kidd, had it easy in Brooklyn and struggled with a veteran team. Now, he gets a team with no experience. It’s going to take a lot of coaching. Maybe, I’m wrong, but I’m not sure Kidd is cut out for it.
Key Additions: Parker, Jerryd Bayless Key Loss: None
Even with the Bulls and Cavs looking like legit title contenders, the Eastern Conference as a whole still has a long way to catch up with the depth of the Western Conference. Check back here for my look at the Western Conference as we prepare for an exciting season in the NBA………